Today I had the pleasure to present at the annual National Summit for Rural Traffic Safety Culture in Big Sky, Montana, alongside many of our friends and colleagues in the traffic safety industry. Together at this Summit we continue our quest to advance the goal of zero deaths on rural roadways. While there’s been much to celebrate in recent years with a steady decline in roadway fatalities and injuries, losing even one life to a preventable incident is unacceptable.
Utilizing research—past, present and future—on the causes of traffic crashes, how to prevent them and how to minimize injuries when they occur, the Foundation helps to reframe the debate on the need for traffic safety improvements as a public health issue. We hope to bring the conversation back to our founding goal of saving lives and reducing injuries on the roads by finding out what is motivates current attitudes and tendencies toward unsafe driving behaviors.
We understand that the true key to saving further lives lies in transforming the culture around driving. In addition to road and vehicle improvements, challenges remain that can be overcome with a shift in the traffic safety culture, especially in rural areas with issues such as seat belt usage, distraction and impaired driving. Similar to past cultural crusades against smoking and drunk driving, two epidemics once considered socially acceptable that now bear the stigma of poor judgment and lack of respect for oneself and others, there needs to be revitalization in the idea that engaging in dangerous behaviors behind the wheel is inherently wrong and socially irresponsible.
This will not happen overnight, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But, with continued rigorous pursuit of this goal with our friends and colleagues in the traffic safety industry as well as campaigns like the Decade of Action, we are confident that the culture of complacency and ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude can be overcome.
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” - Margaret Mead